Splitting Hairs

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The Enneagram of Madness

Four days after the shooting in Aurora, I still can’t find anything unambiguously negative about the shooter James Holmes that dates earlier than this past year. More typical is a memory from a childhood friend:

I remember him being exceptionally intelligent. He excelled in academics. He always was in the top of the class … He was a pretty good athlete, too. But he wasn’t a loner back then — he played, he got along well with all the kids. He was a nice, quiet kid. You’d never think that something like this … But in thirteen years, a lot can happen.

We’ve all heard this same story before. Kazmierczak (2008), Cho (2007). Klebold (1999).

Shy scholarly boys who grew up to become mass murderers as young men.

To me, one obvious common thread among these people is that all were/are Enneagram “5”‘s.

A second common thread, at least among the last three (Kazmierczak, Cho, Klebold), is that each had been prescribed antidepressants.

But what about James Holmes? Was Holmes on an antidepressant? This is a Google Search link showing that lots of people are interested in that very question.

One of the most interesting threads of this current story is that, four days in, there is nary a peep in the media on this issue.

Seems hard to believe in this day of YouTube, Twitter, WikiLeaks, and Anonymous, that the answer to this question could be a kept a secret. But some people, somehow, are trying their very best to do just that.

But despite these efforts, I suspect that the Holmes case will blow the lid off of this mass murderer-antidepressant connection.

Look again at that list of murderers. As we go backward in time from Holmes to Kazmierczak to Cho to Klebold, there is greater and clearer evidence of psychological disturbance in the murderer long before the tragic day.

But now we come to Holmes. With him, unlike his predecessors in madness, there seems to be nothing unambiguously negative until recently.

With Holmes, it’s as if a highly promising life suddenly, within the past year, was met with an event so large that it completely reversed the course of this life (and, tragically, the lives of his victims).

What was that event?

I suspect that the event was that Holmes began taking antidepressants.

Antidepressants are said to give a patient a feeling of well being, combined with emotional disconnection from others.

The Enneagram says that 5s, in times of feeling secure (i.e. “a feeling of well being”), “go to” 8 (the “bully” personality).

The Enneagram further says that the 5 personality type is the source of schizophrenia. That is, all true schizophrenics are 5s, under the theory.

So, take a boy, a 5 with paranoid schizotypal tendencies so mild that these tendencies are simply called “extreme shyness”, and put the boy on antidepressants. What do we get?

We get a young man, behaving like a “taking the law into his own hands” 8, feeling emotional connection with no one, and acting out on his paranoid fantasies.

But what if treating schizophrenics with antidepressants is common “sound” medical practice?

Then you’d better believe that there are lots and lots of people (Big Pharma who sell these drugs, the doctors who prescribe them, the families that push them on their kids, etc.) who want desperately to keep secret that Holmes was taking antidepressants.

I think the most telling fact in this sad tale is the mother’s first public statement when told of the event in Colorado: “You have the right person”.

Holmes’s mother is a nurse. I’m betting that she is the member of the family that got Holmes onto antidepressants. Probably around the time the kid couldn’t find employment between his masters and PhD programs.

And I’m further suspecting that the dad was against this antidepressants idea. I suspect this because the very first reports on that Friday morning four days ago said that the dad “was escorted by police out of the house”.

Such meager grains of sand on which to build a theory.

But Holmes is just the latest in a long, tragic line going back to the 1990s. And I think he’s the most interesting yet because he evidently underwent a complete personality transformation just before the tragedy.

The list of phenomena that can completely transform a personality within the span of one month are few. Antidepressants are #1 on that short list of such phenomena.

5 comments on “The Enneagram of Madness

  1. drkathygraham
    July 26, 2012

    Your take is very interesting. I actually have the opposite take on this story.

    When I read that mom said: “You have the right person”, I immediately assumed that this young man has likely had mental health issues for years and years, since childhood. So much so, that appropriate treatment for him was never received by him – be it pharmaceutical drugs, alternative therapy, cognitive behaviour therapy or anything else.

    Schizophrenia is not treated with antidepressants. It is treated with antipsychotics.

    In the case of Kazmierczak, he discontinued an antidepressant 3 weeks prior to his rampage. The antidepressant he was on was Prozaac, and this drug has a very long half life, where it is excreted almost completely out of the body in 6 weeks. While all antidepressants should be discontinued slowly, at least with that particular drug, the risks are not anywhere as high when they are discontinued cold turkey. I have a feeling he knew what he was going to do at least 3 weeks before he did went on his killing spree.

    When I read these stories, I wonder about so many things. Were these young men medicated properly with antipsychotic medications? Were they compliant with treatment? How many have had CBT? How many have engaged in diet and lifestyle changes that could have helped their brain nutrition? Could the stressors that preceded these young men’s lives have been better managed if parents raised these children with better tools and knowledge to cope with various stressors? Or are these men just “bad seeds” and there is nothing that can ever be done to prevent these types of tragedies from taking place?

    Two years before Kazmierczak killed and injured so many people, his mother died of ALS. I wonder how he responded to that stressor? What makes these young men snap all of a sudden?

    I don’t think the simple answer is found solely in the drug therapy that they were or weren’t taking. It’s a very sad societal issue, parental issue, genetic issue, and biochemical issue (be it drugs or lack of proper brain nutrients).

    That’s my take any way. Interesting stuff, but very, very sad from every possible angle.


    • peter
      July 26, 2012

      Thanks for the comment. Yeah, it can’t be as simple as “he took antidepressants”.

      But now that the media is covering up the meds these shooters are taking, we’re now into a Watergate dynamic where the coverup seems worse than the crime. I mean, like, who has the power to shut the parents up, tells the cops to shut up, and if they don’t, at least tell the media editors not to print anything about the meds this kid was on?

      I don’t think these shadowy hands do this by threats. I think they convince the relevant people that disclosing the meds will create an overreaction in the public that might prevent people who need the meds getting them. If the parents and cops and docs of this kid all believed that, then I can see why they would stay silent on this question.

      But it’s just un-American to stay silent on important matters.

      And since this is America, it’s up to the rest of us to fill in the silence.

      Thanks for amending my crude attempt with some more refined thinking.


  2. drkathygraham
    July 27, 2012

    The more I think about these loose cannons that have psychotic breaks, the more I wonder if they were properly medicated in the first place, and should have never been on antidepressants but on antipsychotics or lithium instead.

    Andrea Yates, the Texas woman who drowned her 5 children and had postpartum psychosis, discontinued her Haldol (an antipsychotic med) on the advice of her psychiatrist because of insurance complications, 2 weeks before she committed the murders. During those 2 weeks prior, she was put on high doses of Effexor (an antidepressant) and Remeron (another noradrenergic AD). She did well on the Haldol with her first episode of postpartum psychosis. While incarcerated and treated in prison, she was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and bipolar I, put on Lithium, and her moods greatly stabilized.

    The whole reason I bring this up, is that I believe Andrea Yates is also a 5. While I think there is something to your theory regarding mental illness and its relationship to Enneagram personalities (e.g. MDD for 1s, biopolar for 7s, schizophrenia for 5s, GAD for 2s, sociopathic personality for 8s, etc.), again, I think it is much more complex than this.

    As I read the behaviour that Holmes displayed in the courtroom and during the time of his arrest, I wonder about mania and a diagnosis of concurrent bipolar and psychosis. I can’t help but wonder, if Lithium and excellent CBT would have prevented this crime in the first place.

    I am interested to see Holme’s psychiatric drug history, not only to see if there were any drugs that could have precipitated these murders (like the double whammy nor-adrenergics prescribed to Andrea Yates just prior to her kids’ deaths), but to see if he was improperly medicated in the first place and possibly misdiagnosed for years.

    The psychiatric forensics and pyschiatric pharmacology will be interesting to read about during his (potential) trial.

    Of course, this doesn’t even speak to the psychosocial aspect of this whole tragic story . . . . The father, a successful and brilliant scientist, Holmes a brilliant student failing an exam and dropping out of school just prior to the murders . . . And all of the Enneagram relationship models of interactions involved in this family . . .


    • peter
      July 27, 2012

      Yeah, I was thinking Lithium for schizotypal 5s was the proper meds. I was surprised to Google “schizophrenia antidepressants” and find out it was considered standard medical practice to give these people antidepressants.

      Was hiking with a colleague this morning and after I gave him my theory, he offered that the mom had probably obtained the antidepressants from a doc outside of the normal medical practice.

      That, of corse, would violate lots of stuff, giving the mom and doc ample reason to stay quiet.

      But when the lid finally comes off on this case, and the inevitable lawsuits against Big Pharma start, I’ll be fascinated to watch the trials to see if a jury would go against Big Pharma even though Holmes may have been taking antidepressants without any proper doctor attention/monitoring.

      After Columbine, some victims sued Big Pharma but they lost. I’m wondering if in 10 years since those trials, the tide of public opinion about Big Pharma has changed enough that juries will nail them even in this case.

      I’m betting that that is the case. Else why would Big Pharma go to the trouble, since Kazmierczak in 2008, of keeping secret the meds the shooter was on?

      I think with the economic meltdown of 2008, combined with the price-gouging of Big Pharma, public opinion of that industry is dim.

      Boy, the meta-stories in the shadows of this case are fascinating.


  3. Pingback: Will This be the One? « Jack’s Ruminations

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This entry was posted on July 25, 2012 by in Personality and the Brain.



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